Gene Saks

Gene Saks (November 8, 1921 – March 28, 2015) was an American stage, film director, and actor. An inductee of the American Theater Hall of Fame, his acting career beginning with a debut on Broadway in 1949. As a director, he was nominated for seven Tony Awards, winning three for his direction of I Love My Wife, Brighton Beach Memoirs and Biloxi Blues. He also directed a number of films during his career. He was married to Bea Arthur from 1950 until 1980, and subsequently to Keren Saks, from 1980 to his death in 2015.

Gene Saks
Jean Michael Saks

November 8, 1921
DiedMarch 28, 2015 (aged 93)
OccupationAmerican actor, stage/film director
Years active1949–2015
Bea Arthur
(m. 1950; div. 1978)

Keren Saks
(m. 1980)

Early life

Saks was born Jean Michael Saks in New York City, the son of Beatrix (née Lewkowitz) and Morris J. Saks.[1] Saks first became involved in theater as a student at Hackensack High School.[2]

He studied at Cornell University and trained for acting at the Dramatic Workshop of The New School in New York with the German director Erwin Piscator.


Saks made his acting debut on Broadway in South Pacific in 1949. On stage he also appeared in A Shot in the Dark, The Tenth Man and A Thousand Clowns, in the role of Leo "Chuckles The Chipmunk" Herman, which he reprised in the film version. He portrayed Jack Lemmon's brother in the screen adaptation of Simon's The Prisoner of Second Avenue, and also appeared in Nobody's Fool starring Paul Newman.[3]

Saks shared a long-term professional association with playwright/comedy writer Neil Simon,[4] directing Simon's plays Biloxi Blues, Brighton Beach Memoirs, Jake's Women, Rumors, Lost in Yonkers, Broadway Bound, The Odd Couple and California Suite. His additional Broadway credits included Enter Laughing; Half a Sixpence; Nobody Loves an Albatross; Mame; I Love My Wife; Same Time, Next Year and Rags.

Among Saks' film directing credits were Barefoot in the Park, The Odd Couple, Cactus Flower (which won Goldie Hawn the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress), Last of the Red Hot Lovers, Mame, Brighton Beach Memoirs, A Fine Romance, and the 1995 television production of Bye Bye Birdie.[3]

Personal life

Saks was married to fellow Actors Studio member actress Bea Arthur,[5] from 1950 until 1980. The couple had two sons, by adoption: Matthew (born in 1961), an actor, and Daniel (born in 1964), a set designer. He also had a daughter by his second wife Keren Saks.[4] Saks succumbed to pneumonia at East Hampton residence on March 28, 2015, aged 93.[4]

Awards, nominations and honours


  • 1977 Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical – I Love My Wife
  • 1983 Tony Award for Best Direction of a Play – Brighton Beach Memoirs
  • 1985 Tony Award for Best Direction of a Play – Biloxi Blues


  • 1965 Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical – Half a Sixpence
  • 1966 Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical – Mame
  • 1969 DGA Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in a Movie – The Odd Couple
  • 1975 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Director of a Play – Same Time, Next Year
  • 1975 Tony Award for Best Direction of a Play – Same Time, Next Year
  • 1977 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Director of a Musical – I Love My Wife
  • 1985 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Director of a Play – Biloxi Blues
  • 1987 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Director of a Play – Broadway Bound
  • 1991 Tony Award for Best Direction of a Play – Lost in Yonkers




Year Title Role Notes
1951 Out There Episode: “Misfit”
1954 Omnibus Traveling salesman Episode: “Hilde and the Turnpike”
1955 Danger Episode: “Precinct Girl”
1955 You Are There Pvt. Lambert Episode: “D-Day (June 6, 1944)”
1955 Producers' Showcase Waiter Episode: “Reunion in Vienna”
1955 Pond's Theater Episode: "The Ways of Courage"
1955 The Elgin Hour Mitchell Sanders Episode: “Mind Over Momma”
1955 Playwrights '56 Mr. Baumgarten Episode: “Snow Job”
1956 Playwrights '56 Doctor Episode: “The Center of the Maze”
1956 Playwrights '56 Emcee Episode: “You Sometimes Get Rich”
1958 Kraft Theatre Episode: “Three Plays by Tennessee Williams: Moony's Kid Don't Cry/The Last of My Solid Gold Watches/This Property Is Condemned” Anthology series
1958 Where Is Thy Brother? Mr. Kalish
1959 Bachelor Father Fred Episode:”Bentley, the Organizer”
1959 Mike Hammer Gobo McCoy ”See No Evil”
1959 Brenner Vinnie Harper Episode: “Small Take”
1959 Rendezvous Episode:” The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit”
1960 Play of the Week Mikoel ”The Dybbuk”
1961 Great Ghost Tales Episode: “Bye Bye Baby”
1961 The United States Steel Hour Willie Episode: “Man on the Mountain Top”
1963 Armstrong Circle Theatre Arthur Vernon Episode: “The Embezzler”
1965 A Thousand Clowns Leo
1975 The Prisoner of Second Avenue Harry Edison
1978 The One and Only Sidney Seltzer
1983 Lovesick Frantic Patient
1984 The Goodbye People Marcus Soloway
1991 The Good Policeman
1994 Nobody's Fool Wirf
1994 I.Q. Boris Podolsky
1996 On Seventh Avenue Sol Jacobs
1997 Deconstructing Harry Harry's Father
1998 Law & Order Judge Carl Samuel Episode: “Castoff”


Year Title Notes
1967 Barefoot in the Park
1968 The Odd Couple
1969 Cactus Flower
1972 Last of the Red Hot Lovers
1974 Mame
1986 Brighton Beach Memoirs
1991 A Fine Romance
1995 Bye Bye Birdie TV Movie


  1. ^ Gene Saks profile,, accessed August 23, 2011.
  2. ^ Staff. "Who's Who in the Cast", Playbill, 1981. Accessed August 13, 2018. "Gene Saks (Director) began his theatrical career playing Lord Fancourt Babberley in the Hackensack High School's production of Charlie's Aunt."
  3. ^ a b Gene Saks at the Internet Broadway Database
  4. ^ a b c Weber, Bruce (March 29, 2015). "Gene Saks, Tony-Winning Director of Neil Simon Hits, Dies at 93". The New York Times. Retrieved March 29, 2015.
  5. ^ Gene Saks/Beatrice Arthur at the University of Wisconsin's Actor Studio audio collection Archived 2014-05-02 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ "On Stage, and Off". The New York Times. December 6, 1991.

External links

A Fine Romance (film)

A Fine Romance (Italian: Cin cin) is a 1991 internationally co-produced comedy film directed by Gene Saks.

Barefoot in the Park (film)

Barefoot in the Park is a 1967 American comedy film starring Jane Fonda as Corie, and Robert Redford as Paul.

Based on Neil Simon's 1963 play of the same name, it focuses on newlyweds Corie and Paul Bratter and their adventures living in a minuscule sixth floor walk-up apartment in a Greenwich Village brownstone. Stuffed-shirt Paul is a hard-working young attorney just starting his practice, while spontaneous bride Corie is determined to create a romantic environment in one room with no heat, a hole in the skylight, and oddball neighbors.

The title refers to Corie's lamentation that Paul will not go running barefoot in Washington Square Park with her because of his sober and cautious demeanor. The phrase becomes emblematic of the differences between the two of them, and is made manifest in the film's climactic scene.

The film's screenplay was written by Simon. Gene Saks directed Robert Redford, reprising his Broadway role of Paul, and Jane Fonda, who replaced the play's Elizabeth Ashley. Mildred Natwick reprises her stage role as the bride's mother, Charles Boyer is featured as the eccentric upstairs neighbor, and Herb Edelman reprises his stage role as a telephone installer. The lead female role had been offered to Natalie Wood who had already played opposite Robert Redford in two movies. Wood declined the offer because she wanted to take time off from acting.

Natwick was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, Fonda was nominated for a BAFTA as Best Foreign Actress, and Simon received a nod from the Writers Guild of America.

Biloxi Blues

Biloxi Blues is a semi-autobiographical play by Neil Simon. It portrays the conflict of Sergeant Merwin J. Toomey and Arnold Epstein, one of many privates enlisted in the military stationed in Biloxi, Mississippi, seen through the eyes of Eugene Jerome, one of the other soldiers. This play is the second chapter in what is known as his Eugene trilogy, following Brighton Beach Memoirs and preceding Broadway Bound, and is the only one in which Eugene is not the central character. The play won the Tony Award for Best Play, and Barry Miller won a Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Play for his performance as Arnold Epstein.

Brighton Beach Memoirs

Brighton Beach Memoirs is a semi-autobiographical play by Neil Simon, the first chapter in what is known as his Eugene trilogy. It precedes Biloxi Blues and Broadway Bound.

Brighton Beach Memoirs (film)

Brighton Beach Memoirs is a 1986 American comedy film directed by Gene Saks, written by Neil Simon, and starring Jonathan Silverman and Blythe Danner. Simon adapted his semi-autobiographical 1983 play of the same title, the first chapter of what is known as the Eugene trilogy, followed by Biloxi Blues and Broadway Bound. The film frequently breaks the fourth wall by having Eugene speak directly to the camera.

Cactus Flower (film)

Cactus Flower is a 1969 American comedy film directed by Gene Saks and starring Walter Matthau, Ingrid Bergman, and Goldie Hawn, who won an Oscar for her performance.

The screenplay was adapted by I. A. L. Diamond from the Broadway play of the same name written by Abe Burrows, which in turn was based upon the French play Fleur de cactus by Pierre Barillet and Jean-Pierre Grédy. The film was the eighth highest-grossing film of 1969.

Cactus Flower (play)

Cactus Flower is a farce by Abe Burrows. It played for years on Broadway before being adapted by I.A.L. Diamond into a 1969 feature film directed by Gene Saks.

Based on the play Fleur de cactus by Pierre Barillet and Jean-Pierre Gredy, the comedy focuses on the relationship between young, wild Toni and her older, married lover Julian, a dentist. Convinced the two have no future together, Toni attempts suicide, and a guilt-ridden Julian rashly proposes he leave his wife so the couple can be together. However, Julian has never revealed to Toni that his "marriage" is actually an elaborate lie concocted to keep Toni at arm's length. Toni refuses to break up his household without first meeting and talking with Julian's soon-to-be-ex, so Julian enlists the aid of his shy spinster assistant Stephanie to pose as his non-existent wife. Complications arise when Toni decides the two must find her a new beau so everyone concerned can live happily ever after.

After two previews, the Broadway production, directed by Burrows, opened on December 8, 1965 at the Royale Theatre, where it ran for two years and nine months before transferring to the Longacre, for a total run of 1234 performances, ending on November 23, 1968. The original cast included Lauren Bacall, Barry Nelson, Brenda Vaccaro, and Burt Brinckerhoff. Lloyd Bridges, Kevin McCarthy, and Betsy Palmer were replacements later in the run.

Both Vaccaro and Brinckerhoff were nominated for Tony Awards for their featured performances. Later adapted for film as: Cactus Flower with Walter Matthau, Ingrid Bergman and Goldie Hawn (for which Hawn won an Academy Award) and again in 2011, as Just Go With It starring Adam Sandler, Jennifer Aniston and Brooklyn Decker.

Enter Laughing

Enter Laughing is a 1963 play by Joseph Stein.

A farce in two acts, it is based on the semi-autobiographical novel by Carl Reiner. The action centers on the journey of young aspiring actor David Kolowitz as he tries to extricate himself from overly protective parents (who want him to be a married pharmacist) and two too many girlfriends, while struggling to meet the challenge of his lack of talent in 1930s New York City.

The Broadway production opened on March 13, 1963, and ran for over a year. It marked the Broadway directorial debut of Gene Saks. The cast included Alan Arkin, Vivian Blaine, Sylvia Sidney, Michael J. Pollard, and Alan Mowbray. Arkin won a Tony for his performance.

I Love My Wife

I Love My Wife is a musical with a book and lyrics by Michael Stewart and music by Cy Coleman, based on a play by Luis Rego.A satire of the sexual revolution of the 1970s, the musical takes place on Christmas Eve in suburban Trenton, New Jersey, where two married couples who have been close friends since high school find themselves contemplating a ménage-à-quatre.

Lost in Yonkers

Lost in Yonkers is a play by Neil Simon. The play won the 1991 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

Mame (film)

Mame is a 1974 Technicolor musical film in Panavision based on the 1966 Broadway musical of the same name (itself based on the 1958 film Auntie Mame) and the 1955 novel Auntie Mame by Patrick Dennis.

It was directed by Gene Saks, and adapted by Paul Zindel, and starred Lucille Ball in her final theatrical film performance. The cast also stars Bea Arthur, Bruce Davison, and Robert Preston.

The story focuses on the madcap life of Mame Dennis (Ball), which is disrupted when she becomes the guardian of her deceased brother's son. She marries a wealthy Southern plantation owner (Preston), is widowed, yet through it all, with the help of her dearest friend, Vera Charles (Arthur), manages to keep things under control.

Nobody's Fool (1994 film)

Nobody's Fool is a 1994 American comedy-drama film based on the 1993 novel of the same name by Richard Russo. The film was written for the screen and directed by Robert Benton and stars Paul Newman, Jessica Tandy, Bruce Willis, Melanie Griffith, Dylan Walsh, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Gene Saks, Josef Sommer, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Philip Bosco. It was Paramount's final production under its Paramount Communications ownership (being sold to the original Viacom in July 1994) and Jessica Tandy's final produced film before her death on September 11, 1994.

Nobody Loves an Albatross

Nobody Loves an Albatross is a 1963 comedy play written by Ronald Alexander, which was performed at the Lyceum Theatre of Broadway, New York between 19 December 1963 and June 20 1964. The play was produced by Elliot Martin and Philip Rose and was directed by Gene Saks. The play, set in the "living room of Nathaniel Bentley's house in Beverly Hills", is a satire of the US television industry. It featured Robert Preston in the lead role.

Same Time, Next Year (play)

Same Time, Next Year is a 1975 romantic comedy play by Bernard Slade. The plot focuses on two people, married to others, who meet for a romantic tryst once a year for two dozen years.

The Goodbye People (film)

The Goodbye People is a 1984 American comedy-drama film written and directed by Herb Gardner, based on his 1968 play The Goodbye People. The film stars Judd Hirsch, Martin Balsam, Pamela Reed, Vincent Gugleotti, Gene Saks and Ron Silver. First screened at the Toronto International Film Festival in 1984, the film was released on January 31, 1986, by Embassy Pictures.

The Odd Couple (film)

The Odd Couple is a 1968 American comedy Technicolor film in Panavision, written by Neil Simon, based on his play of the same name, produced by Howard W. Koch and directed by Gene Saks, and starring Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau. It is the story of two divorced men - neurotic neat-freak Felix Ungar and fun-loving slob Oscar Madison - who decide to live together, even though their personalities clash.

The film was successful with critics and audiences, grossing over $44.5 million, making it the fourth highest-grossing picture of 1968. The success of the film was the basis for the ABC television sitcom of the same name, starring Tony Randall and Jack Klugman as Felix and Oscar.

Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical

This is a list of winners and nominations for the Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical. Prior to 1960, category for direction included plays and musicals.

Tony Award for Best Direction of a Play

The Tony Award for Best Direction of a Play has been given since 1960. Before 1960 there was only one award for both play direction and musical direction, then in 1960 the award was split into two categories: Dramatic and Musical. In 1976 the Dramatic category was renamed to Play. For pre-1960 direction awards please reference Tony Award for Best Director.

Tony Bennett at Carnegie Hall

Tony Bennett at Carnegie Hall is a 1962 live album by Tony Bennett. After the success of his single "I Left My Heart in San Francisco", he was invited to appear at Carnegie Hall. The June concert was directed by Arthur Penn and Gene Saks. Carnegie Hall had not featured a pop performer until April 23, 1961 when Judy Garland recorded her legendary concert.

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